Stricter Limits on Truck Drivers’ Hours Will Save Lives, Regulators Say

Following a lengthy battle between federal regulators and truck drivers, new rules are set to reduce the number of hours that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel.

In an effort aimed at saving lives from tractor-trailer accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will cap drivers’ workweeks at 70 hours – a reduction of nearly 15 percent from the previous limit of 82.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,887 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2012. The DOT does not know precisely how many of those were related to fatigue, but one study showed about 13 percent of such crashes involve a sleep-deprived driver.

Opponents in the trucking industry say that the new rules may cost them as much as $1.4 billion per year because deliveries will take longer and more trucks will be required to do the same work. Government regulators put the cost at about $500 million and say the health benefits due to fewer crashes and less fatigue will outweigh the costs.

The DOT estimates shorter workweeks will prevent about 19 deaths, 1,400 crashes, and 560 injuries each year. But industry representatives point to a years-long downward trend in truck-crash fatalities.

For each violation of the new rules, the FMCSA will impose fines of up to $2,750 on individual drivers and up to $11,000 on trucking companies.

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